Dubai: The UAE’s cycling coach is hoping continental champion Yousuf Mirza can sustain his form heading towards the Jakarta Asian Games, to be held later this year.
Mirza was an important member of UAE Team Emirates during last week’s Dubai Tour after, which he travelled to Myanmar to represent the UAE at the 38th Asian Cycling Championships that concluded on Tuesday along with the 25th Asian Junior Cycling Championships and the seventh Asian Para-Cycling Championships in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
Participating in the 176km road race for elite men, Mirza beat off competition from Japan’s Fumiyuki Beppu and Iran’s Mehdi Sohrabi to win his first gold at the continental level. His previous best was a silver medal he won in 2015 to earn the right and become the first rider to represent the country at an Olympic Games in Rio 2016.
“Hopefully, Yousuf can maintain this momentum over the next few months moving towards an important event like the Asian Games,” coach and older brother Badr Mirza told Gulf News from Myanmar.
“This gold medal is historical in the cycling history of the UAE and now that he has scaled one barrier, I expect him to sustain his form and target a first-ever gold at the Asian Games as well,” he added.
A four-member cycling squad had departed to Myanmar with Badr as coach even when the Dubai Tour was on. Yousuf joined the UAE squad in the early hours of Sunday after being part of the breakaway during the fifth and final stage of the Dubai Tour on Saturday. “Whatever rest he got was on flight as he was on his bike first thing on landing in Myanmar. I advised him to take it easy and pay more attention to the mental part of this hard race with some of the top Asian riders in the fray,” Badr said.
Mohammad Al Mansouri, Jaber Al Mansouri and Mohammad Murawwi gave the best support to their teammate as the UAE rider finished with a time of 3 hours, 50.32 minutes ahead of Beppu and Sohrabi. “When we first raced together for the UAE at the 2008 Asian Championships [in Japan], I dropped out with mechanical problems while Yousuf couldn’t even complete the race. Ten years down the line he stands as the best cyclist in Asia. All this comes down to his commitment and determination,” Badr complimented.
“He can only get better from now on. But this can happen only if he continues to retain his form over the next few months. I am confident he can keep it as he is within a professional set-up like UAE Team Emirates. This is his big chance, and what we started so many years back can now be pursued in earnest as we target the next big goal for UAE cycling,” he added.
Mirza has not been named on the UAE Team Emirates squad participating in this week’s Tour of Oman, but there is a likelihood he will feature in the Abu Dhabi Tour starting on February 21.